St. George boundaries ‘not racially discriminatory,’ judge rules
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - While a judge ruled organizers of the proposed City of St. George can not break away from Baton Rouge and form their own city, he did hand them one significant victory.
Judge Martin Coady said he found no evidence that the boundary lines for St. George were drawn in a discriminatory manner.
In blocking the incorporation, he ruled St. George would be unable to operate with a balanced budget and its creation would cost the taxpayers of Baton Rouge $48 million a year.
St. George opponents said it was clear that the proposed area of incorporation was intentionally drawn to systematically exclude minorities from inclusion in the proposed city.
”Plaintiffs argued that the Incorporators intentionally eliminated a portion of the population of minority voters in a blighted community,” Coady wrote in his published ruling. “Plaintiffs failed to offer compelling evidence in support of their claim that the boundaries of St. George were purposefully drawn in a racially discriminatory fashion.”
When organizers first proposed the new city in 2013, it included 71,436 registered voters. However, in 2018, their incorporation petition contained an area of 51,984, or 20% fewer registered voters. A significant portion of the reduction came from low-income households and a racial mix of African American and Hispanic communities, Coady said.
Coady said organizers conceded they reduced the area they wished to incorporate in order to be able to obtain the signatures of 25 percent of registered voters within the required 270 days.
At the time of the 2013 petition, there was no time limit. However, a law passed in 2016 established a 270-day time period.
“They excluded the area in which precincts had a low signature count in support of the 2013 petition because of time constraints in gathering signatures. The redrawn map also excluded more affluent areas,” the judge added in his ruling.
Coady said the perception of racism may exist but he added that organizers have “provided a racially neutral reason why certain areas were excluded and not purposely drawn in a racially discriminatory fashion.”
St. George organizers said Tuesday they are disappointed in the judge’s ruling that blocks their incorporation and added that they plan to appeal.
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